Since an early age I was certain that the prescribed path with its emphasis on institutions and academic learning did not fit my specific nature. Throughout High School I was tortured by the impulses of an inner self that craved a more experiential approach to knowledge, an impulse that left me feeling uprooted by the modern educational system.
The year after I graduated I was faced with one of the crucial dilemmas of my young life, do I turn away from the voice of my own inner growth and head-off to college or do I seek out some means of adhering to this strange and sacred force?
Founded in 1993 by then President Bill Clinton, AmeriCorps sought to engage young adults in meaningful service coupled with an an experience of tightly-knit community living.
Based upon the structure and ideals of the CCC ( Civilian Conservation Corps) and its nearest ancestor The SCA ( Student Conservation Association) AmeriCorps offered ( and still does) participants opportunities to experience a wide gamut of different jobs in various locales.
During this time I had an education job on the outer fringes of Sacramento, did construction in New Orleans and Mississippi and most importantly did crucial restoration work in Oregon, a job that played a decisive role in getting me to where I am now (namely writing this letter).
In essence it was a pretty ideal embodiment of everything I was seeking, a wild mix of intellectual stimulation,hands-on work, community and travel with the result that afterward I felt a very physical and very powerful relation developing between me and my environment.
From AmeriCorps I went onto work with other organizations of a similar constitution but with a strict emphasis on conservation, spending eight months camping in the Mojave trying to restore damaged Desert habitat, passing a summer in the rainy forests of Vermont developing my environmental leadership skills and as of now preparing for a year of rehabilitating the wetlands of the Pacific Northwest.
Now as I have traveled the country and worked in a large variety of different ecosystems I have become increasingly conscious of how insanely fitful our relationship with the natural world has become.
Today more than ever there is a great movement towards reconciliation between us and the Earth, a movement that is paradoxically related to our purely modern potential to blow it all to smithereens.
In fact, there has been many times while I have been in the middle of what I normally consider very important conservation work that I have had to stop. For suddenly I lose all sense of value in my labors and I think “ Is this really having any effect”, “Am I causing more damage then good?”, “ Am I just a cracked-out ( metaphorically speaking) hippie?”,“ What happens if it all goes kaboom tomorrow?”.
This is where you come in!
Since time immemorial it has been the role of the storyteller, the poet, the shaman, the bard, to bring to light a vision of man and his environment that will rain down order upon the chaotic circumstances of the external world. It is these visionaries who mold from their experience creative works that somehow transcend the merely human and effectively relate man in a new and more nourishing way to the cosmos. What I am talking about here is the grand purpose of art and literature... the birthing of a mythology.
You see the more and more I work with the environment the more puzzled I become with where we all exactly stand in relation to our home planet... as individuals, as a culture, as a race.
Joseph Campbell once spoke of the spiritual and psychological “free fall” we are all currently a part of, a state of unknowing that applies to man's relation with the environment more then to any other aspect of modern life.
For in an age when every move we make can save or destroy our species it becomes essential to build up some set of ideas or symbols with which to orient ourselves.
This is why I have created this humble little journal, for it's time to let the storytellers play their part.
It's time to let the artist come in and help us find out exactly where we're going.
What I am encouraging is for the artist to come forth and share with us their experiences with the natural world or lack of it, whether it be a simple description of a butterfly or the moon, the story of a youthful hike through the woods, a diatribe against technology or even the feeling that all is well and that life goes on.
I encourage this in hopes that by taking-in, absorbing, breathing these experiences presented to us as creative acts, as well as through the symbiotic relationship between artist and audience, we will begin to piece together a chapter or two in the story of our time. The story of the new millennium, which out of necessity must have at the center of its plot the relation of our race to this great swirling sphere that for better or worse we call home.
In light of this I invite you to submit to EarthSpeak, that you may share your voice in this momentous dialogue, a discussion whose content reflects and deals with issues at the very vanguard of the 21st century.
-Seth Jani August 2009 EarthSpeak Editor